Japan: Human rights abuses persist in the "foreign trainee" programme
Since 1993, Japan has operated a foreign trainee programme (the Technical Intern Trainee Programme), under which persons from developing countries are employed as technical interns by companies in Japan for a maximum of three years, ostensibly to obtain skills that they can utilize after returning to their countries. At of the end of 2013, there were approximately 155,000 foreign trainnees, most of whom were from China or Vietnam (the running total since 1993 was more than 800,000). Human rights advocates report that abuses are rife in the system, and accuse companies and the government of exploiting foreigners as cheap labour. The Japanese government has announced its plan to expand the system, to increase foreign labour in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
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Author: Kyodo News
"Yokohama legal firm refuses to return passport to Filipino woman", 4 November 2019
A legal service firm in Yokohama is refusing to give a passport back to a Filipino woman under an employment contract...,preventing her from seeking a new job or returning home...
It is illegal for employers to keep passports of foreigners who live in Japan as technical trainees. But the country has no penal regulations concerning those of other foreigners, with only the labor ministry's guidelines advising employers not to keep them.
The case of the Filipino woman suggests this legal pitfall could potentially put foreign workers in a precarious condition even at a time when Japan is opening its doors wider to them...
...[T]he woman...had been working as an interpreter at the firm, Advanceconsul Immigration Lawyer Office.
...She also claimed that the legal office...has paid only part of her salary.
...Under the contract, the firm would keep her passport and the woman would need permission to retrieve it after making a written request. The office would also determine the manner and period of withholding her passport, she said.
She stopped working at Advanceconsul in early July but it refuses to recognize that she has quit. It has not responded to requests to give back her passport.
...Some other foreign workers also requested Advanceconsul to return their passports, but the firm has not done so. Kanagawa Prefecture's labor committee recognized in September that the firm's refusal to negotiate with the workers over their passports was unfair practice.
The firm has declined to respond to inquiries from Kyodo News.
...There is no movement so far by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to prohibit employers from keeping their foreign workers' passports...
- Related stories: Japan: Human rights abuses persist in the "foreign trainee" programme
- Related companies: Advanceconsul Immigration Lawyer Office
Author: Human Rights Committee
... Technical intern training programme
16. The Committee notes with concern that, despite the legislative amendment extending the protection of labour legislation to foreign trainees and technical interns, there are still a large number of reports of sexual abuse, labour-related deaths and conditions that could amount to forced labour in the technical intern training programme (arts. 2 and 8). In line with the Committee’s previous concluding observations (see CCPR/C/JPN/CO/5, para. 24), the State party should strongly consider replacing the current programme with a new scheme that focuses on capacity-building rather than recruiting low-paid labour. In the meantime, the State party should increase the number of on-site inspections, establish an independent complaint mechanism and effectively investigate, prosecute and sanction labour trafficking cases and other labour violations. ... 28. In accordance with rule 71, paragraph 5, of the Committee’s rules of procedure, the State party should provide, within one year, relevant information on its implementation of the Committee’s recommendations made in paragraphs ... 16 ... above.
Author: Japan Federation of Bar Associations
... The Immigration Control Act revised in July 2009 stipulates measures aiming only at problems that can be urgently responded to among other problems of the Technical Intern Training Programs.91 The revised Act temporarily responded to the international and domestic criticism toward the rampant human rights violations of programs such as the following: trainees and interns are in fact low-paid labourers, their passports and bank books are confiscated during the training period, and they are forced to have mandatory savings. As seen in the following 1) to 4), the situation has not improved at all since July 2010 when the Act came into force. The Technical Intern Training Programs should be abolished. ... (see text starting at page 63)
Author: Japan Times
... While the trainees are covered by Japan’s labor laws, there are widespread reports of long working hours under severe conditions, low and unpaid wages as well as abuses such as trainees being confined or being banned from contacting other trainees. Roughly 80 percent of 2,300 businesses employing trainees covered by the ministry’s 2013 on-site inspections were found to have violated labor regulations, including safety violations and failure to pay minimum legal wages. Whereas the program is supposed to promote transfer of job skills to developing economies through the trainees, many of the employers — mostly small businesses — are said to utilize them as low-cost manual laborers — positions that they have difficult filling with Japanese workers. In pushing to expand the scope of the program, the government plans to tighten oversight of the recipient organizations and companies hiring trainees. A new oversight body would be empowered to carry out on-site inspections of employers, and issue warnings and guidance on labor offenses. Still, experts familiar with the situation doubt if such measures can effectively root out widespread labor violations and abuses of trainees’ rights. ...
Author: Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
5. The Committee recalls that in its concluding observations of 2010, it had requested the State Party “to address all the points raised in the present concluding observations”. Other than responses to the three concerns expressed in paragraphs 12, 20 and 21, as found in the State Party’s follow-up document in 2011, there was no reference to the 2010 concluding observations in its report. The Committee strongly recommends that the State party address all the recommendations contained in this document in its next periodic report. ... 8. While noting that some laws include provisions against racial discrimination, the Committee is concerned that acts and incidents of racial discrimination continue to occur in the State party and that the State party has not yet enacted a specific and comprehensive law on the prohibition of racial discrimination which will enable victims to seek appropriate legal redress for racial discrimination (art. 2). ... 12 The Committee is concerned about reports of unequal treatment of migrants in employment and in access to housing. It is also concerned about reports that the rights of foreign technical interns are violated through the non-payment of proper wages, and that these people are subjected to inordinately long working hours and other forms of exploitation and abuse (art. 5). The Committee recommends that the State party reinforce its legislation in order to firmly combat racial discrimination against migrants in employment and access to housing and improve migrants’ employment status, bearing in mind the Committee’s general recommendation No. 30 (2004) on discrimination against non-citizens. The Committee also recommends that the State party take appropriate steps to reform the technical intern training programme in order to protect the working rights of technical interns. ... 15. The Committee is concerned about the continued exclusion of non-citizens on the basis of race or nationality from accessing some public places and facilities of general use, such as restaurants, hotels, family public bathhouses and stores, in violation of articles 2 and 5 of the Convention (arts. 2 and 5). The Committee recommends that the State party take appropriate measures to protect non-citizens from discrimination in access to public places, in particular by ensuring effective application of its legislation. The Committee also recommends that the State party investigate and sanction such acts of discrimination and enhance public awareness-raising campaigns on the requirements of the relevant legislation.
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...日本政府推出的"外國人技能實行製度"...承諾外國人能在學習技能的同時掙得工資...研修生...希望離開日本時能帶著滿口袋的現金，並且習得一門能讓他在國內更容易獲得工作機會的技能。 "我的日本同事總是沖我喊'笨蛋'。" 不願透露全名的恩先生對法新社如是說。 "我感到身心俱疲。"
他所面臨的問題並不是日本同事的欺侮，也並非單程就要2小時的通勤路程，或是...一成不變的單調工作。真正的問題在於，他借了一百萬日元（約合8700美元）來參加這個項目，這筆錢主要用來支付旅費以及中間人的"中介費"。巨額負債迫使他成為渴求人力的日本建築工業的"奴隸"。 "在賺夠錢償還貸款前我不能離開"，他這麼說。 …
然而，美國國務院的年度《人口販賣問題報告》已經不止一次點名...日本，批評其"欺騙性的招聘做法"。 …日本過去受到的指責包括未支付加班工資、過勞死以及各種騷擾，例如公司盡力限制研修生如廁次數或要求其提供性服務。日本政府駁斥了TTIP濫用外國人力的指責，但承認確實存在一些問題。 "這不是奴工製度，"一名移民局官員對法新社說道。 "一些參與技能實習制度的研修生確實遭到剝削，但是政府已經對此採取行動。"這名官員堅稱，日本政府無力控制中間人的行為，但此類機構並不被允許收受押金。他還補充說明:"雇主也被禁止收走研修生的護照。"…
Author: United States Department of State
... Male and female migrant workers from China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Nepal, other Asian countries, Uzbekistan, and Poland are subjected to conditions of forced labor, sometimes through the government’s Industrial Trainee and Technical Internship Program (TTIP). ... The Government of Japan has not, through practices or policy, ended the use of forced labor within the TTIP, a government-run program that was originally designed to foster basic industrial skills and techniques among foreign workers, but has instead become a guest worker program. The majority of technical interns are Chinese and Vietnamese nationals, some of whom pay up to the equivalent of approximately $7,300 for jobs and are employed under contracts that mandate forfeiture of the equivalent of thousands of dollars if workers try to leave. Reports continue of excessive fees, deposits, and “punishment” contracts under this program. Some companies confiscated trainees’ passports and other personal identification documents and controlled the movements of interns to prevent their escape or communication. During the “internship,” migrant workers are placed in jobs that do not teach or develop technical skills—the original intention of the TTIP; some of these workers experience under- or non-payment of wages, have their contracts withheld, and are charged exorbitant rents for cramped, poorly insulated housing that keeps them in debt. ... The TTIP continued to lack effective oversight or means to protect participants from abuse; despite some reforms, NGOs and media reported recruitment practices and working conditions did not improve for interns. The government did not prosecute or convict forced labor perpetrators despite allegations of labor trafficking in the TTIP. ...
実習生の人権保護に取り組む「移住労働者と連帯する全国ネットワーク」の 鳥井一平 （とりい・いっぺい） 事務局長の話 労働力不足で外国人の力を借りること自体は否定しないが、技能実習名目でごまかすべきではない。日本人と同じ権利が保障されるきちんとした仕組みで、正規の労働者として受け入れる必要がある。安価な労働力で穴埋めするという人権軽視を許せば、日本の次世代の働き方にも影響を及ぼす。外国人だけの問題ではない。